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Why I don't care about the Olympics

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As we head into the final week of the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio, I can't help but feel relieved that the games are almost over. I've never been a big fan of the Olympics, and the more that I learn about them the less enthused I am. 

In general, I'm not the biggest sports fan. While I enjoy watching the occasional live baseball or hockey game, I've never followed sports religiously or much cared which team wins or loses. I've never understood how people can get whipped up into such a frenzy over a game. I've seen grown adults fight at Ontario Hockey League games, where the players are teen boys, and we've all read about the damage that was done after the Stanley Cup game in Vancouver. 

When Olympics time rolls around I dread being forced into watching the games and hearing ad nauseam about who won what medal. While I don't fault anyone for enjoying the Olympics, I do resent feeling forced into caring about them. They are impossible to escape as I find myself surrounded by advertising, merchandising, and coverage. 

Overall I find sports culture to be alienating, as there is little room for casual fans. Especially as a woman, your fandom in any subject is often questioned by the amount of trivia you know. I don't have any interest or room in my brain to memorize who was the MVP of a certain team during a certain year, or the batting average of a specific player.

Not to mention how unhealthy and problematic sports culture is. Issues that come to mind include toxic masculinity, sexism, violence, and homophobia. We also idolize and overpay athletes without holding them accountable for their actions, including the rampant issue of domestic violence. And research suggests that concussions from sports may be directly linked to this violence.

Whenever I express that I don't care about the Olympics, many people can't comprehend it. Reasons they list for why I should like the Olympics include national pride and the world putting aside their differences to come together. While these may seem like noble ideas, they begin to crumble upon more critical examination.

Nationalism and patriotism can be unifying concepts, but they can also be dangerous. For example, it's hard to escape coverage of the toxic nationalism that Donald Trump has based his presidential campaign on. And it's difficult to get behind nationalism when our nation is built on stolen land and the continued mistreatment of First Nations people. 

And while people putting aside their differences to come together is beautiful thing, I can't help but wish it was for a more significant cause than games. The Olympics often serve to distract us from more pertinent global issues like homelessness, hunger, violence, and global warming. Take the 2014 Sochi games where boycotts had little to no impact on the games or Russia's treatment of LGBTQ people. If only we could band together to confront these issues with the same enthusiasm and spending as we do the Olympics, then we could actually make some change for the better.

Not to mention that the games are very wasteful and not as beneficial to host cities as some would have you believe. In 2012 Andrew Zimbalist wrote in the Atlantic that hosting the Olympics is a "loser’s game." Some of the reasons he noted include mass overbuilding, and a lack of meaningful increase in tourism. Last February the Economist also published an article on how hosting the Olympics and World Cup is bad for a city's health. 

When a city hosts the Olympics,  new venues have to be built, which are often abandoned as soon as the games end. This is obviously much more wasteful than creating sustainable infrastructure that could actually benefit the city's residents. Not to mention the food and other items that go to waste at the games, and the litter that comes along with a sudden influx of people to a city. And I wonder how much harder these consequences are felt now that countries in the "Global South" have been allowed to host the games.

And while we praise the athletes during their brief performance at the games, what happens to them afterwards? They spend so much time training for a singular goal, I can't imagine how it must feel once the euphoria of the games end. Many athletes experience post-competition depression as they deal with the sudden and drastic change, and the world forgets about them.

I want to end by noting there is nothing wrong with being interested in seemingly frivolous things, it often keeps us from becoming too depressed about the state of the world. I for one know more about 90's pop culture than is humanly necessary. But we need to keep these interests in check and start to think more critically about the culture that we consume. We need to begin addressing more difficult and unpleasant realities with the same gusto that we follow the triumph of athletes. 

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